Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Swimming lessons

So, Elisa is taking swimming lessons.

When I first signed her up for swim lessons I was so excited. She loves the water and loves going swimming. And, since it is May, Greg has a more flexible schedule and is able to watch Jonathan while we go to the pool. So I was picturing this great little Mom and daughter date twice a week: a fun little excursion to the pool where Elisa splashes and plays with the other kids while I talk to a mom friend of mine (whose kids are also in swim lessons).

That is not how it has really turned out.

We just attended our fifth lesson today. Elisa has now been in the pool two times, each time for roughly two minutes. The rest of the time she sits on the wall and watches, and tries not to get splashed in the face.

She is interested in what her class is doing. And at first she was excited... but her timidity outweighed her desire to get into the water. Her class is full of exuberant boys and taught by a male teacher. So I wasn't too surprised when she didn't jump in the water right at first. I figured it would just take her awhile to warm up to her teacher.

But now it has been five sessions. And I'm starting to think that it just may not happen. We are over halfway through (nine sessions total), and I am afraid that she has grown comfortable sitting on the wall... and won't go out of her comfort zone, even to experience the fun games in the water.

It makes me so sad.

I feel like she's totally missing out. And I know she could really like it and have fun, if she was willing to try it.

I've thought A LOT about what my response to this should be. I've thought through my options: verbal pressure, bribery, threats, dropping out, going and acting like it doesn't matter whether she gets in or not, letting her be totally on her own while at the pool, sitting next to her on the edge and encouraging her to try different games... etc. etc. etc.

After a lot of thought I decided that she needs to deal with it on her own. No matter how it turns out... even if she sits on the wall for the entire nine sessions. I don't know if this is the right decision or not. But I know that for her personality it seems to make the most sense. She is fairly shy toward new people and in new settings. She has to be allowed to go at her own pace or she just kind of shuts down. She certainly has a will, and if she decides that she doesn't want to do something, she's not going to do it... at least, not without a battle. I don't want to make swimming some kind of discipline issue. There is something about this situation that is extremely hard for her. (I know this because she fell asleep during rest time after her first two swim classes and she never really takes a nap anymore.) And I decided against any artificial reward system because I think that if she is able to conquer her fear and get in the water, swimming will be it's own reward. If I institute some kind of fake reward it kind of takes away her victory and makes it about something else.

We have her blow bubbles in the tub. We talk about her teacher and the games that she "plays" at the pool. I've ordered some books about swimming from the library. We've gone swimming at the same pool as a family (and we'll try to do this a couple more times). I'm doing anything I can to make her comfortable with the idea of swimming lessons.

But now it's up to her, and I'm afraid she won't get in the pool. It's so hard to sit and watch your kid get left behind. But in this case I have to remind myself, she will learn to swim someday (just maybe not this year), she will learn how to talk to a teacher. This is not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

And now I'm starting to think that in swimming lessons what is important is not what Elisa does or doesn't do, but what I teach her through my response to her. In other words, I thought I was signing up for swimming lessons, but what I was really signing up for was parenting lessons.


kristal said...

thank you for such an insightful post, carolyn. the fact that you put so much thought into your response to this situation speaks volumes of your parenting. you are so aware. so present. so not-reactionary. so healthy. i think whatever you decide to do after your careful thought is going to be the right thing to do. i'm so thankful for the reminder to parent out of thoughtful consideration of my child, rather than what's easiest, will be least embarrassing for me, or just whatever it is my parents did.

Jeana said...

Well, Kristal basically said everything I wanted to say. Great post! Thank you so much for sharing this.

Christa Forsythe said...

I so appreciate you, Carolyn... you have a gift of putting things in to words and I love the kindness you express in parenting. I think you are amazing and I learn sooooo much from you! I just love how she is sitting in the picture... so lady like!

Denee Longan said...

Thanks for posting this, Carolyn. Sometimes I think there isn't necessarily one "right" response in parenting. Just several choices, and we get to choose one that makes sense at the time. As a shy and stubborn child myself, I know that sometimes I appreciated a push, and sometimes I needed to learn to fend for myself. I'm sure Elisa will learn something valuable from your approach. And I know that someday she will be so thankful she had such a patient momma.